More Confessions of the Misunderstood Salesperson

If you read our recent introduction to Zeke, a professional but misunderstood salesperson, you learned some surprising insights into the fears, challenges, motivations and triumphs of the modern sales representative. If you missed that article, click here and then come back to this article to learn more. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Now that you’ve been reacquainted with 37 year-old Zeke and his initial confessions, here is the rest of his story:

Zeke Speaks Again:

“Me again. Thanks for listening. Thanks for wanting to hear what makes me tick. Now, where was I…? Let’s see, I already shared some confessions about dealing with customers, meeting sales quotas, how my compensation works, and how it feels to be rejected, recognized and praised. So, what’s next?”

Think I’m an Extrovert? Think Again:

“Let me start by dispelling a common misconception I’ve encountered in my ten years of selling. Most salespeople are not really extroverts. Oh, sure, we may come across as self-assured and outgoing; and indeed, that can be a part of my personality, too. But if I seem to be the “life of the party,” that’s because it’s what people expect. When they find out I’m a salesperson, they look to me to get conversations going, to keep them moving, and to be well-versed on lots of topics. The truth is that the best salespersons are usually better listeners than we are presenters. Frankly, listening is one of the most important skills a salesperson can have. It empowers us to get to the root of the customer’s “pain” and prescribe the right cure.”

On Motivation:

“Another common perception is that salespeople are motivated by money. It’s true that money is important, but for me, money simply helps me provide a better life for my family. It helps me enjoy life and support causes and do good things for those I care about. But I’m also motivated by accomplishments, by taking pride in a job well done. It motivates me to know that I am helping a person or a business achieve their goals with the right solution. I truly feel like I make a difference, and that drives me to do more of the same.”

Long Hours:

“The salesperson’s world isn’t just non-stop schmoozing and three-martini lunches. While that persona might have been appropriate 30 years ago, sales is much different today. I work hard. In fact, my days often start before my co-workers and end later. Because I am in client meetings much of the day, I have to use my off hours to schedule appointments or work on presentations or other client deliverables. If you don’t see me in the office, don’t assume I’m on the golf course or in a fancy restaurant. I could just as easily be holed up in a coffee shop taking care of business between appointments. See that guy in the corner, laser-focused on knocking out a client letter or responding to an RFP? Yeah, that might be me.”

Travel:

“Traveling is not fun. If you’ve ever had to run the length of an airport to catch a connecting flight or endured a traffic jam on your way to an important event, you know what I mean. Traveling takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to eat and sleep in strange places when you’d rather be at home. Traveling is exhausting. It takes a toll, physically, mentally and emotionally. It was fun my first year out of college, when I got to see new sites on my company’s dime, but it hasn’t been fun for quite a while. Travel keeps me away from my family and friends, often during important occasions. Remember the movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles? Remember how desperate Steve Martin was to get home for Thanksgiving? Remember how he had to miss his daughter’s school play? Yes, that happens. No, it is not fun, let alone funny when it happens to you.”

Control:

“Do you think the salesperson calls the shots? Do you think I control all the factors before, during and after the sale? The truth is that I have to depend on many others to fulfill what the prospect or client expects of me – and my company. I am on the front-lines taking the hits, but I am forever at the mercy of others who can make or break my ability to deliver. Because of this, I worry if my company can execute when I need their support. I worry about market factors beyond my control. I worry about my demo unit breaking and manufacturers increasing prices and competition turning cutthroat. I worry about my contacts leaving after I’ve invested years in prospecting and rapport building. I worry about my customer’s budget and credit. I worry over call-backs and return emails and missed appointments.

“Control? Most days I do my best to respond and stay on top of constant change. Listen, learn, get knocked down, get back up, adapt, repeat. This is a more realistic view of my days. Of course, the occasional sales success keeps me going and keeps me coming back for more.

“Well, that’s it for now. Client meeting coming up, you know…”

Bottom Line:

Zeke and others like him have their share of frustrations and hardships, but at the end of the day this much is true: they signed up for the life of the salesperson, and they stay in it despite the challenges. And something else: without sales professionals like Zeke, companies would wither on the vine. So the next time you see your company’s salesperson, feel free to give them a pat on the back and a simple “Thank you.” It just might make the day a little brighter.